Black cowgirls, now that’s something you don’t see every day. The Bill Pickett Rodeo is the only African American touring rodeo in the country, and a Refinery29 video profile with its members revealed a black woman has not yet qualified for the National Rodeo Finals.
“As far as the history books were concerned, nobody really knew about the black cowboys,” Tiffany Carter, the rodeo grand entry coordinator, told Refinery29. “It was our due diligence to put us out there, so people know we are here, we’re alive, and we’re still competing.”
According to Caroline Carter, general manager of Bill Pickett Rodeo, Lu Vason founded the team after attending competitions and noticing a shortage of black cowboys and cowgirls, despite knowing their prevalence in the field. To create the presence he wanted to see, Vason launched the traveling rodeo in 1984.
One cowgirl featured in the video detailed the events of a rodeo, comparing it to a track meet. There are several events, including barreling, but the main event centers around the cowboy or cowgirl trying to retrieve a piece of tape from the back of a steer. Whoever completes the obstacles quickest, wins.
“It could be a lot of pressure,” cowgirl Dayna Carter admitted. “You’ve just got to keep a clear head. Just know you’re doing this for your people; you’re representing your people. Just stay focussed.”
The group has plans for the National Rodeo Finals with hopes of taking the first titles for black people in significant rodeo competitions.
“I always wanted to take rodeo to the next level, and the next level with this rodeo is the National Finals level,” Dayna Carter said. “There is not one African American female in the National Finals Rodeo.”
While the Bill Pickett Rodeo will continue striving to include more black people in rodeo, they look to the next generation as the endurance of their movement.
“We’ve got some little girls coming up,” Dayna Carter said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they do make it to the next level. As long as you have your own behind you, and the support system behind you--family, friends--the sky is the limit.”